Abortion is often called the “pro-woman” choice. Pro-lifers find themselves accused of both “denying” women the right to choose and of being strictly pro-birth, not caring about what happens to the mother or child after birth. One of the many problems with these charges is the widely supported work of crisis pregnancy centers around the world, which offer diapers, clothes for mother and baby, and information on financial help to anyone in need. Project Rachel is another pro-life, pro-woman group. This ministry offers healing to women suffering after an abortion.
Nancy Tosi, advisor for Vida Humana Internacional, the Hispanic division of Human Life International, has spent many hours this summer offering Project Rachel training to South American clergy, including Bishop Pablo Salas of Colombia. With the support of HLI, and on behalf of Archbishop of the Diocese of Guayaquil, Ecuador, Nancy offers three phases of training to priests and seminarians. Nancy has been working with women suffering from post-abortion trauma for nearly thirty-five years, and is well equipped to train others in this important work.
What is Project Rachel?
Project Rachel was founded by Vicki Thorn in 1984 as a ministry to those suffering from abortion. The goal of Project Rachel is to create a force of healing for women suffering after the loss of their children. Today, over 120 dioceses in the U.S. participate in Project Rachel.
Nancy’s Work with Project Rachel
Nancy Tosi’s passion for helping those in need started with her adoption of her son. As a single parent, she consulted often with her parish priest, who eventually asked Nancy to take charge of an adoption pastoral initiative. While meeting and advising couples trying to adopt, Nancy encountered many women suffering from sterility. This sterility was the result of three things: in some cases it was genetic or the result of illness, but in many cases it was the result of an abortion.
The pain that Nancy saw in post-abortive women really struck her. They experienced loneliness, regret, isolation, and immeasurable grief. Nancy met women who would cry for no reason or take out their sorrow in violence against those they loved. In order to continue her work, Nancy sought to understand the psychological reasons for the behavior of these women trying to adopt children.
The Vietnam War and Abortion
It was around this time that the Vietnam War was ending, and Nancy saw the men coming home from the war. The surviving soldiers were considered lucky. Before long, though, they experienced a new horror. Many veterans couldn’t shake the memories of the men they killed, or of their departed brethren. They could speak of the deaths without shame, but they could not forget. Many veterans fell into alcoholism, drug addictions, and eating disorders as they tried to escape the depression, memory flashes, and loneliness.
These symptoms were familiar to Nancy. She had seen them all in women suffering from sterility after an abortion. The difference in post-abortive women was that accompanying the grief and the post-traumatic stress was a deep sense of guilt, and a sense of violation. These women had the blood of their children on their hands.
Work with Human Life International
Nancy’s experience with distress caused by abortion, referred to as post-abortion syndrome, moved her to start her work with Project Rachel. From 1982-2010, Nancy served as the President of the Advisory Board of the Laity in Ecuador. During this time, she became acquainted with Vida Humana Internacional. In 2007, she began helping VHI founder Magaly Llaguno with helping women who suffered from post-abortion syndrome.
Training Priests and Seminarians
Nancy is in her sixth year training clergy in the important work of counseling suffering women. The three phases of training consist of 72 total hours in which she goes through the church teachings, shares her knowledge of how to help people through their pain, and passes on tools for understanding. The clergy have one of the most important parts of Project Rachel: administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is crucial that they be well-trained to understand both the pain and the healing process women go through before they approach the confessional.
Nancy also teaches a more extensive training program for religious and laity, which consists of 21 days of classes spread out over several months. This time off in between phases is important for study and prayer to truly grasp the method in order to best serve women. These breaks are also a chance for participants to heal from their own grief and pain, as many participants coming to the ministry have experienced the hurt of abortion themselves.
A Message to Suffering Women
“Do not give in to discouragement and do not lose hope,” says Nancy to women who struggle with feelings of guilt and regret following abortion. “The Father of mercies is ready to give you His forgiveness and his peace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. To the same Father and His mercy you can with sure hope entrust your child. With the friendly and expert help and advice of other people, and as a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life.”
The Pro-Woman Choice
Abortion advocates go to great lengths to demonstrate that abortion is “pro-woman.” The movement puts a lot of pressure on post-abortive women to feel good about their abortions. As a result, thousands of women suffer in silence, ashamed at the guilt that they “shouldn’t” feel. Project Rachel opens up the abortion conversation to provide those women the outlet they need. It is the real pro-woman choice.